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Should You Use Talcum Powder on Your Inner Tube? (The Truth)

In this article, you will learn whether or not you should use talcum powder on your inner tube, so you can put the urban legends to rest.

Man replacing inner tube with a presta valve on a black bike tire. Source: Adobe stock.
Man replacing inner tube with a presta valve on a black bike tire. Source: Adobe stock.

You might have heard that storing your spare bike tube in a zip lock bag with talcum powder may be beneficial. Some say it will prevent tire punctures, but others say it’s a myth. Well, which is it? Should you use talcum powder on your inner tube?

There is little evidence that sprinkling talcum or powder over a tube or tire can prevent a flat tire. However, a little powder can help make your inner tube easier to install, and there’s no harm in using it.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn whether or not you should use any powder on your inner tube, so you can put the urban legends to rest.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 22, 2022, to include additional information regarding powder use on inner tubes.

Before using talcum powder on your inner tube, let’s first understand what an inner tube is in the first place.

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What’s inside an inner tube?

The inner tube is a soft rubber donut with an air valve on the underside that allows air to enter and exit. It should be noted that a full inner tube might appear to be larger than the tire. This is quite normal. The tube will not exceed the tire’s dimensions while encased inside it.

What is talcum powder?

Talc, often known as talcum, is a clay mineral made of hydrated magnesium silicate with the chemical formula Mg3Si4O10(OH)2. Baby powder* is made from powdered talc, frequently mixed with corn starch. This mineral serves as a thickener.

What is a tire pinch flat?

Pinch flats occur when you ride into anything that makes a sudden impact, such as a rock, railroad track, or the edge of a pothole. The collision compresses the tire so much that the tube becomes trapped between the rim’s edges.

This results in two small holes approximately a half-inch apart on the rim side of the tube. Because they resemble fang marks, pinch flats are sometimes called snakebite flats.

Most pinch flats are caused by a combination of three things:

  • Not enough tire pressure.
  • Tires that are too thin.
  • Riding incorrectly.

If you’d like to learn how to avoid all kinds of flats, check out our article on avoiding bike tire punctures.

Does talcum powder prevent tire pinch?

The idea that talcum powder can protect against pinch flats is false. Pressure from a pinch flat will occur whether or not you use powder.

Several rolled up unused bike tire tubes.
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Several rolled up unused bike tire tubes. Source: Adobe Stock

Should I use powder on my inner tube?

They might not help you prevent a flat, but they may help install the inner tube. Getting the tube to sit evenly in the tire can often be awkward. Powder allows it to move without sticking, making it easier to fit the tire. So, if you are installing a tube, go for it. If you want to use some powder, no one will stop you, and it certainly won’t hurt.

If you are looking for some gear to help with tire replacement, look at some of the options below. And if you want to help choose an inner tube, look at our article on how to choose an inner tube for your fixed gear bike.

Why do people believe talcum powder is beneficial?

This myth comes from the old idea that “if it’s good for automobiles, it must be good for bikes.” Cars Trucks utilize talcum or graphite powder between tire and tube since the two may vulcanize due to rolling heat. Sadly, this often makes it hard to get the tube out without destroying it and leaving pieces of the tube stuck in the tire casing.

Bicycles do not create enough heat to vulcanize tubes. Thus they may be easily removed from the tire. Aside from that, talcum has little impact on punctures other than to speed up air discharge when it occurs.

The inner tubes are filled with talcum powder because when they are made, they get so hot that if they were not, they would not be able to be folded again.

Can I use corn starch powder to install an inner tube?

Talcum powder is pretty inert and will stay stable inside your tire. Cornstarch is not inert and will change its characteristics with moisture, heat, and friction. So it’s not necessarily harmful, but it’s not the same as talcum.

If you really want to use powder on your inner tube, baby powder might be a viable option. Check out this video below that shows you how to install an inner tube using a little bit of talcum powder, corn starch powder, and baby powder. We also wrote an article on how to replace your inner tube that’s worth checking out.

Watch this video called Cheap talcum powder substitue for bicycle tube installation & spare from the Tony Marchand YouTube channel.

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A video called Cheap talcum powder substitute for bicycle tube from Tony Marchand’s YouTube Channel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the use of talcum powder on inner tubes.

What does baby powder do to tires?

As previously stated, it allows the tire to fit in the wheel a little easier.

Is baby powder and talcum powder the same thing?

Baby powder is a frequent term for talcum powder. Many people use talcum powder to keep their skin from getting rashes and irritations by soaking up moisture and reducing friction.

Can talcum powder help prevent tire punctures?

There is no clear evidence to suggest applying talcum powder or any other powder on a tube or tire may help avoid a flat tire. A little powder, on the other hand, can assist in making your inner tube installation easier, and there’s no risk in applying it.

Can you put talcum powder on your bike’s inner tube?

Yes, you can. However, there is little evidence that sprinkling talcum or powder over a tube or tire can prevent a flat tire. However, a little powder can help make your inner tube easier to install, and there’s no harm in using it.

Conclusion

Flat tires are no fun, and neither is installing an inner tube, but if you want to use. a little powder to do so and hopefully prevent a pinch, then go for it. It won’t hurt, and who knows, it just might work.

This article covered talcum powders used in bike inner tube installations and maintenance. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • You can use powder if you’d like, but there might not be a real benefit.
  • The idea comes from care manufacturers who powder the tires.
  • The powder can help you install the tire easily.
  • Talcum powder and cornstarch powder react differently when wet, so choose your powder carefully.
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So, do you use talcum, corn starch, or baby powder when installing your inner tube? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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